Using the 7 basic human emotions in your sales funnel: Sadness

There are 7 basic human emotions: Anger, Fear, Disgust, Contempt, Joy, Sadness, Surprise.

These are root emotions from which all other emotions spring. (Read more about them here). These 7 emotions are at the core of what drives our decision-making.

If you understand these emotions and build your sales funnel around them, you can sell more.


It’s amazing how many of the 7 basic human emotions are negative. And yet, we can still use them in our sales funnels. Sadness is one of those basic emotions and even though you don’t see it a lot in sales funnels, it is present.

I should make a disclaimer here: Selling with sadness seems callous and I don’t mean to come across that way. But there ARE situations when it is necessary to sell in a sad situation. For example, a funeral home or a fundraising campaign for a catastrophe are both selling into sadness. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as it is done ethically and sensitively and responsibly.

So, how do you sell into a sad situation? Well the first thing you need to do is highlight the emotional connection between the buyer and the victim. It might be a family connection or it might be something broader (such as: We’re all humans and are saddened to think that someone else is facing such difficulty).

In situations where it is a widespread problem, the story needs to be humanized to help establish that emotional connection. That’s what those late night World Vision commercials do: They introduce you to one child and that child stands in as a surrogate for all starving children and helps to build that emotional connection much more effectively. (It’s hard to sell into sadness when there is no human connection).

You also need to keep in mind the benefits when selling into sadness: The purchase/contribution is not going to bring happiness or even necessarily peace-of-mind to the buyer. Don’t promise that! Rather, the buyer’s benefit is a sense of relief at having made an appropriate response.

The biggest risk in selling into sadness is using guilt and it is a very fine line between appropriately selling with sadness and laying on a heavy dose of guilt. I think the difference is this: Appropriate selling into sadness says “If you contribute, you’ll help” while inappropriate selling with guilt says “If you DON’T contribute, you’ll hurt.” That’s a hard line to walk and your sales and marketing copy will need to need to be closely reviewed for guilty selling.

There are many occasions when selling into sadness is okay. When done appropriately, it’s an easy sell because people are driven by a human connection to help each other. But it’s an emotionally draining effort and it’s one that is fraught with pitfalls for the seller.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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